(JTA) — A Facebook photo of a South African Jewish day school student wearing a traditional Palestinian scarf has spurred outrage and support for the teenager.
A petition called for the removal of Joshua Broomberg from an honorary position at King David Victory Park High School. A dueling petition came to his defense.
Broomberg, deputy head boy at the day school as well as the captain of the South Africa national debate team, was tagged in a Facebook photograph wearing the scarf and a badge of the Palestinian flag, according to the Independent Online, a South African news website.
“Team South Africa wearing Palestinian badges and Keffiyehs to show our opposition to the human rights violations carried out against the people of Palestine,” the photo caption said.
Broomberg and the debate team were in Thailand competing in the World Schools Debating Championship.
In response to the posting, a petition was posted online at change.org calling for Broomberg’s removal as deputy head boy. The petition quickly garnered 2,000 online signatures.
In response, a petition on change.org opposing Broomberg’s removal has garnered more than 4,000 signatures.
Rabbi Craig Kacev, general director of the South African Board of Jewish Education, which oversees King David Victory Park, said Broomberg would not be suspended and defended the student’s right to free speech, telling South Africa’s Eyewitness News, “We encourage critical thinking, we encourage our learners to debate and there’s no censorship in our school.”
In a post on Facebook, Broomberg apologized for creating an “uproar,” which he said he did not intend, but defended himself as a proud Jew and as a Zionist.
“While I apologise for the hurt we seem to have caused, I do not apologise for standing with Palestine on this issue,” he wrote.